crescendo of temples rises from the water's edge; the air is filled with soothing chant of saffron-
A priest performing rituals on the ghats clad priests. Everywhere there is an unceasing stream of pilgrims in search of prosperity in this life, Nirvana in the next. This is Varanasi, the oldest living city, which enshrines the very essence of Hinduism. It is said to be the first created spot on earth, and according to legend, in existence for over thousands of years.

The ancient seat of learning in India, Varanasi is picturesquely
situated on the crescent shaped left bank of the holy Ganges. The name of this holy city is compound of the names of two streams,
the Varuna and the Asi, which still flow in the north and south of the city respectively. Also known as Kashi- City of Light, it attracts thousands of pilgrims to take the holy bath on the banks of the most sacred river Ganges and pray in one of the 1600 temples spread out in the city or to die here. According to Hindu belief, dying at Kashi ensures release from the eternal cycle of birth & rebirth.

Boat ride on the Ganges at Sunrise


Devotees taking bath in the holy waters of the Ganges

The approx five km of riverfront is a moving spectacle both at sunrise and at sunset. The rounded umbrellas of the priests break up the serried lines of steps leading down to the water's edge. A boat ride on the river Ganges at sunrise is totally a spiritual experience. The shimmering red and golden water of the Ganges when rays of dawn falls on them, the high banks, the temples, the Ashrams, and the pavilions; pilgrims, waist deep in water, offer salutations to the Sun before taking the cleansing dip, seers
meditating on the holy ghats, chanting of  Mantras, women washing clothes… discovery and experience takes to the ultimate bliss. At dusk, lighted oil lamps and flowers brighten the water
surface as they are set afloat- isn't it enchanting?

Besides the ghats is the fascinating maze of alleys, full of small colourful shops selling rich brocaded silks, brassware and all the articles essential for worship. These narrow lanes will lead you to the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of Varanasi. The spire of this most venerated  temple is gilded with gold leaf. Also worth visiting are the Tulsi

One of the Ghats on the banks of holy river Ganges

Manas Temple and the Bharat Mata Temple, dedicated to 'Mother India' which instead of any customary goddess houses a relief map. of India carved in marble.

It is not just the Hindus who venerate Varanasi today, for the city has links with Buddhism as well. It was at Sarnath close by that Buddha preached his first sermon nearly 25 centuries ago. Here, the
Golden statue of Buddha in Mulagandha Kutivihar temple, Sarnath Dhamekh Stupa is India's oldest existing monument while the Lion pillar which forms the basis of the design of India's national emblem is at the Sarnath Museum. The new Mulagandha Kutivihar temple houses a remarkable life-size golden statue of Buddha and beautiful frescoes.

From times immemorial Varanasi has been the center of education, religion, art and culture. Hundreds of students flock here from all over India to learn Sanskrit. Benaras Hindu
University, one among the largest residential universities in Asia, is situated here.

Varanasi boasts of exquisitely worked silk saris and brocades, which are cherished as collector's items across the world. There are also a variety of indigenous handicrafts including brass and copperware, glass bangles, wood and clay toys, jewellery, wall hangings, woodcraft, carpets,  lampshades, and mask of Hindu &

Ramnagar Palace on the banks of river Ganges

Buddhist deities. Isn't it tempting? You can mix the divine experience of meandering through narrow lanes of the old city with the excitement of shopping- Best pastime!
 

USEFUL INFORMATION

Getting there & away

Varanasi is well connected by air from Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Mumbai and Kathmandu. It is also well linked with the major cities by rail & road.

Further Connections

Allahabad, Khajuraho, Patna, Bodhgaya, Lucknow

Temperature

Summer: (Max.) 43 degree C, (Min.) 32 degree C
Winter: (Max.) 15 degree C, (Min.) 5 degree C

Best time to visit

From October till March.

Important

1.

Wear woolens for boat ride at sunrise, as it is quite cool early in the morning.

2.

Photography of cremation site is prohibited.

3.

Put your shoes off before entering in any temple complex.

4.

Beware of the thugs and pandas (priests), mainly interested to get hold of your money by any means.

TOURS TO VARANASI

Charismatic North India & the Wonders of Nepal (22 Days)

 

Chasing the Wild (21 Days)

 

Don't miss your train (18 Days)

 

Go for refuge to the Buddha (20 Days)

 

Voyage of Discovery (20 Days)

 
 

 

 
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